Between January and April of this year I published a series of texts which I called Enneagram & Music, where I shared my perspectives about twelve different musicians’ Enneagram types and subtypes.
Of course, my assessments may or may not have been accurate, but this is far from being the most important thing for me. What I do consider a big deal is the fact that I came to those conclusions because of what I read and heard from my two biggest references in this area: Urânio Paes and Bea Chestnut.
Both Urânio and Bea (who, not coincidentally, happen to be teaching partners at the recently founded Chestnut Paes Enneagram Academy) share a common emphasis on the importance of knowing the three main instincts of the Enneagram in order to better understand oneself and others.
Because I’ve already talked about these three instincts — namely: Self-Preservation, Sexual and Social –, and because there are some good resources out there that address them quite well, I won’t get into many details here.
Instead, I’ll take the risk of being a little too reductionist by saying the following: Self-Preservation is related to a person’s individual needs; Sexual is related to one’s connections on an intimate level; and Social is related to how one deals with groups of people.
In this way, each of the nine types in the Enneagram has three main subtypes, depending on what a person’s dominant instinct may be. And, for each of the three subtypes of a given type, there’s one who expresses that type’s characteristic passion counterintuitively, so to speak.
These are what Bea calls countertypes in her book The Complete Enneagram. They very often look so different from the other subtypes that they can make that person seem like being from a different type altogether.
Interestingly enough, although that wasn’t my initial intention, I noticed that the majority of the twelve musicians I decided to profile would be considered countertypes.
Which led me to think about the possibility that being a countertype may make things even more difficult for one’s path of growth in the Enneagram.
That may be a stretch from my part, but it’s based on the following impression: when you are one of the countertypes, you may very well be lead to think you’re somehow more “evolved” than you actually are by not being, outwardly, so stereotypically your type.
One more mask to put off
To explain this issue a little better, let me bring here some words from Urânio (whom I quoted on the article about Mexican guitarist Carlos Santana): your passion (i.e., your personality) serves as a mask for your virtue (i.e., your essence), while your main instinct serves as a mask for your passion.
Therefore, one’s main instinct is a “mask of the mask”, in the way that it doesn’t allow a person to recognize what keeps him/her stuck in his/her most critical patterns.
That’s what frequently happens to me, by the way. As a Self-Preservation Four, I can look a lot like a type One, but that’s because of the way (or at least one of the ways) that the Self-Preservation instinct mixes with type Four’s characteristic passion (which is envy).
As if that wasn’t enough, for Self-Preservation Fours things get even trickier for a very specific reason: one possible — and, indeed, the most widely recommended — path of growth in the Enneagram is the movement against the lines of the arrows. For a Four, this means precisely going towards type One.
Can we see now the dilemma a Self-Preservation Four faces if he/she only pays attention to the arrows (or the wings, for that matter), without knowing how the Self-Preservation instinct affects his/her type’s passion?
To put this dilemma more clearly: How — and to what extent — will that person (in this case, me) know if him/her being like a type One has more to due with a strong Self-Preservation instinct or, instead, with a deliberate and conscious movement of growth?
To add to this challenge, there aren’t many reliable references on the subtypes out there. It seems that the only two books that deal with this topic specifically are The Complete Enneagram and 27 personajes en busca del ser (in Spanish: 27 characters in search of the self), edited by Claudio Naranjo.
To say that I love both of these books would be an understatement, since they offer great clarity and some good recommendations for each subtype. But, in my opinion, neither completely answers the question I proposed two paragraphs above.
So, how can we navigate around such a challenge?
A few words about the vertical dimension of the Enneagram
Before I get into that, it’s important to say that, if you take the Enneagram from a truly spiritual perspective, a person’s main type does not — and in fact, cannot — change, for the very reason that one’s passion is what is behind everything one does at the level of personality. (Remember what Urânio said about our masks?)
The instincts, on the other hand, deal with our most basic tendencies, and it seems that they develop in a more “organic” way. In other words, this is a kind of development that usually happens, consciously or not, because of some very specific external circumstances.
One example of that is when a person moves to a new city. This may lead him/her to become more Social, at least until he/she finds a new group of friends and acquaintances with whom he/she feels comfortable enough.
But there’s another possibility for the development of the instincts, which is when this happens as a byproduct of other types of inner work. In the context of the Enneagram, this would refer specifically to wings and/or arrows work.
Because this second type of development can lead to more dramatic changes, I’d argue (based mostly on my own experience) that they can make a person’s subtype change more or less permanently.
So, certain types of deliberate efforts give us a first hint that there’s a good chance that any differences we perceive in our three instincts may be due to something more than mere mechanical actions.
Still, after knowing more about the subtypes, it would be naive to see those changes, per se, as any indication of real spiritual growth. So, where else could we look?
Adjusting our compass
I feel like only now I’m starting to realize for myself (so that I can make my journey a less haphazard one), the importance of what I’ve heard Urânio saying more than once: going back to the basics and having a clear understanding of where our focus should be is essential if we are to do our work with the Enneagram.
It’s because of this that he says that one should “forget everything” that is not related to the following concepts:
- holy idea;
- passion; and
It would be hard for me to do justice to each of these four concepts without making this text much longer than it already is. But maybe that’d be a less urgent task, because there’s much more material about them (in different websites and books) than there is about the subtypes.
In any case, a possible reference for us to have at least an idea of how much work there is to be done is to see how often (and for how long) we can access our type’s virtue and holy idea, and how often we catch ourselves at the mercy of our type’s passion and fixation.
Of course, how we’re going to address all of these challenges is a different discussion in itself. But having the support of like-minded people, both online and offline, seems like a safe bet to me. (Particularly for all of us Self-Preservation Fours out there!)